College- what a loaded word. By definition it is an institution or establishment that provides higher or specialized education, simply “more school.” But college is way more than that. It is a time where you are adaptable, open-minded, and eager to learn, change and grow. A time to rebel from the rule book your parents beat continuously into your conscious from the days you began walking. A time to get that nose ring you always thought would look cool, hang out with people from a far away place, go to Europe without much a of an itinerary- do whatever makes YOU happy, not your parents or teachers, coaches or whoever else used to influence your decisions. College teaches you a myriad of lessons ranging from social skills to calculus and everything in between. But perhaps the most important lesson that college teaches you is how to be independent.
A little background on me:
I just finished my freshman year at the University of Michigan, a school I was destined to attend. Being that I was the potential 18th member of my family to go to Michigan, had been going to annual football games at the Big House and had a lunatic of a father that always, during any occasion, ever, wore something with a block M on it, there really wasn’t any doubt in anybody’s mind about where I would attend college. If I had the grades, I would be a Wolverine.
I also grew up with two parents who worked full time. That means I was scheduling my own playdates in elementary school, making my own after school snacks before sports games in middle school, driving myself to tutor sessions and cooking my own dinner in high school. I thought I was the most independent a young girl could possibly be at each respective age. And it was true, I was way more independent than all of my friends combined, but I didn’t learn independence in the true sense of the word until my first year of college.
So, high school wannabe independent dives head first into Ann Arbor and reports back on true independence. Independence the college edition if you will.
Becoming independent does not mean you are old, or that you have your whole life plan mapped out step by step. I don’t believe that being independent necessarily means that you are living in your own home, paying our own rent, or holding a job that is financially fulfilling enough for you to be satisfied with your career. So don’t worry ladies, whether you’re a freshman, senior or graduate, and still don’t know exactly where you want to be in 10 years, don’t worry, you’re not supposed to.
Perhaps what one year of college has taught me is that independence involves understanding how to be the best you. How many times have you heard that classic line from your parents or your teacher or coach… “Trust me, I’m looking out for your best interests. You’ll thank me later.”
College removed me from my parent’s constant nagging, my high school teachers’ suggestions and my coaches orders. It catapulted me into an unfamiliar environment where I had to decide what I was going to eat for every meal, how I was going to spend my allowance for the month, and who I wanted to surround myself with. I learned what made me happy and what made me sad. I noticed the type of people that sprung me toward success. I ignored the bad influences. I learned how to be a better me.
Being independent is knowing your own best interests and not needing others to guide you to make the right decisions for you. Sure, a little motherly advice was beyond helpful when I faced a tough decision, but deep down I now know what is right for me in all aspects of my life. Independence is knowing your own mind, body and personality- so what if you still need some help cooking a bowl of pasta.
Emma Bernstein is a rising sophomore at University of Michigan and an intern and contributing writer for She’s Fit to Lead.